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Visiting England for the first time: 14 things to know before your visit

Are you planning a visit to the UK 2

14 things to know when visiting England for the first time

Don’t push in (queue jump) or invade personal space

Sign saying queues ahead and images of people in a queue.

We English like our personal space so it is very important to not push into that bubble. If we need to squeeze past someone we will always say “excuse me” as we pass. This is the polite way of asking permission before you attempt to move through.

We also have a strong queue culture – we like to form queues and wait for our turn patiently. We are not fans of pushy people who push in front!

You may not be told explicitly to get to the back of the queue (we are generally too polite to actually tell you) but expect a LOT of tutting and ‘looks’ in your direction from the people you pushed in front of!

Don’t stand on the left side on escalators

London escalators in the Underground when visiting England stick to the right.

When you are travelling on London Underground escalators always stand on the right. If you stand on the left you will find a lot of unimpressed people trying to get past you.

If possible we recommend that you avoid travelling during rush hour periods (and definitely before 9.30 am and after 4.00 pm) on weekdays.

Good to know – Push the button to open train doors as they don’t open automatically.

Please learn the difference between the UK, Great Britain and England

Flags of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and a map of the UK.

It might be useful to learn this!

  • Great Britain consists of England, Scotland and Wales.
  • The United Kingdom is Great Britain plus Northern Ireland.
  • England is not the same as Britain.
  • Scotland is not England. In Scotland, the people are Scots or Scottish. In Wales the people are Welsh.
  • In England the people are English. You can call us Brits too. In Wales or Scotland use the terms above!

We don’t all speak like the Queen (or know her!)

Each region of England has their own accent and you may hear many accents as you travel around England. Some are easier to understand than others (and some are easier on the ear shall we say)

Do not expect many people to speak like the Queen. She speaks a form of English called Received Pronunciation which is considered the poshest by us commoners. It is also an indication of someone from the upper classes who probably attended boarding school and was raised by nannies (no stereotyping intended Boris)

There are some nicknames for people from the different areas which you may hear too:

  • Geordie – Northern England specifically the North East (Tyneside and Northumberland)
  • Mackem – North East (Sunderland and surrounding areas)
  • Mancunian – Manchester
  • Cockney – East End of London
  • Brummie – Birmingham

If you spend enough time in England you will learn to recognise the different accents. Just don’t try to copy them – it is not that easy!

Some English place names are not pronounced the way you may expect

UK map under a magnifying glass.

This follows on nicely to the point about regional accents as you may discover some place names are not pronounced as you may expect.

  • Torquay – Tor/key
  • Loughborough – Luff/burrah (I have heard this pronounced as Loo/ga/broo/gah)
  • Alnwick – Ann/ick (don’t pronounce the ‘w’)
  • Bicester – Bister
  • Plymouth – Plim/uth
  • Stroud – Strowd
  • Morecombe – Mork/um
  • Berwick – Ber/ick (don’t pronounce the ‘w’)
  • and my personal favourite ….. Leicester – L/ester (as in J/ester and not Lie/cess/ter)

Tipping is generally voluntary (tip 10% for good service)

UK coins and bank notes.

Whilst tipping is not expected in England it is always appreciated!

If you want to leave a tip for good service in a restaurant a 10% – 15% tip is generally the rule of thumb. Sometimes you will find that a service fee has already been added. If this is the case a tip will not be expected.

If you are taking a London cab just round up the fare as appropriate depending on the length of your journey.

If the baggage is taken to your room by a hotel porter we recommend a tip of £2.

What to do when you need to spend a penny!

London toilet in Chelsea with a WC sign.

If you are out and about in England and need the loo you may be wondering how to find a public toilet.

You will find public toilets in shopping centres, department stores, train stations and good old Macdonalds! There are some great apps available which you can use to find the location of the nearest public toilet and I have recently come across the Flush app which gives details including opening hours/cost plus directions of the nearest loo.

Enjoy England (quirks and all)

Morris dancers in England.

Embrace (and expect) England to be different to where you come from. Don’t go looking for the familiar but embrace the food, culture and opportunities to explore the country.

Don’t spend your entire holiday in London. Get out and about and see attractions in other parts of the country. There are so many places to visit and areas of outstanding natural beauty in England such as the Lake District National Park and the Cotswolds.

England is also filled with places of interest to history buffs (including the odd castle or two) stately homes, historic cities such as Bath (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site)and York, seaside towns and quaint villages. And as you explore don’t forget some unique English experiences such as enjoying a pint in an English pub, a hike through the countryside, an English football match (NOT soccer) or a fish and chip supper!

Enjoy random opportunities and places to visit as you travel.

While I love the nation’s capital and understand the interest in seeing famous sights and landmarks such as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace a few days in London does not mean you have seen England.

Prepare for the English weather (expect the unexpected) and to become as obsessed as we are about it!

A rainy London street.

You will need a coat/jacket whatever the time of year. If you are visiting in winter it may snow (this is more likely the further north you go) Don’t discount visiting the UK in winter – it’s low season (outside of Christmas and New Year) and places are quieter.

England is not the sunniest country in the world and compared to many countries we have a relatively short summer.

Summer weather tends to be pretty unpredictable so again, just keep an eye on any local forecasts or news bulletins.

Pack plenty of jumpers/cardigans and a pair of comfortable walking shoes!

We love the rain but our summers tend to be pretty unpredictable so just keep an eye on local weather forecasts etc. If it does start raining you will need your waterproofs! Unsure what to pack? Check out our packing list.

Don’t underestimate the English love of tea

Tea and teapot with sandwiches and cakes.

Sorry all you coffee lovers but we English really do love our tea (well this one does anyway!)

If you order tea expect it to come with milk and sugar (which you can add). In a posh establishment (all of you planning afternoon tea in London) expect a teapot, tea leaves and a strainer! And a large choice of different teas!

I don’t drink coffee but I gather you may struggle to get a decent cup in England (or so my Aussie friends tell me)

Don’t talk too loudly in restaurants or on public transport

Woman shouting through a funnel.

I cannot say this enough – the English are not loud! We are very aware of being respectful to others around us.

Do not talk loudly on public transport like trains, tubes or buses. This is considered quite rude and may result in stares and tuts especially if you are in a designated quiet zone!

Don’t say we drive on the wrong side of the road!!!

Aerial view of a UK roundabout.

Because actually, YOU do!!! Hahahahaha – only kidding – just remember the driver’s seat is on the other side of the road when you jump in your hire car.

There are a LOT of cars crammed on England’s roads so don’t be surprised at just how busy they can be. Or just how narrow the roads are. Compared to the wide streets I have driven on in Australia or North America English roads are very narrow.

If you are planning to hire a car we recommend that you read our guide to renting (and driving) a car in the UK.

Good to know – If you are used to driving on the wrong side of the road (ie the right😉) you will instinctively look the wrong way when attempting to cross the street. Remember to look right (in fact, look both ways and double-check before crossing!)

Prepare for 2 taps in your sink!

Taps in a sink

Yes so for some reason water rarely comes out of one central tap in England (and in fact the UK). Nope, it comes out of a cold tap and a hot tap. So be prepared to freeze or be scalded.

There are a few historical reasons for this that I won’t bore you with but at least you will not be surprised when you come across 2 taps!

Don’t try to see everything in one visit (you can’t)

England in a suitcase

Although you may really really want to see it all you can’t. We have spent decades in the UK and we still haven’t seen everything! (I still have quite a bucket list for London never mind England!)

It may be tempting to plan lots of places to visit in England and numerous tourist attractions on your first trip but you will end up exhausted and potentially not enjoying any of it.

If you are struggling to put together your itinerary and feeling overwhelmed with the entire process why not take our 5-step itinerary planning challenge which will help you put together a draft itinerary.

If you still need help or simply want to chat it through we us we do offer an itinerary review service. Find out more about our itinerary review service here!

Itinerary Planning Challenge